There’s a lot about Hanoi that perplexes us (in good and bad ways) on a daily basis and we often witness things that will never make sense to our free-range British reared minds. We’d like to share just a few quirks that we’ve noticed around the city that make us smile/furrow our brows.
- Wedding photos at the shopping centre
For some unknown reasons, half of Hanoi wants to have their wedding photos taken outside one of the main shopping centres located around Hoan Kiem Lake. Every weekend, without fail, we see a multitude of brides in an array of wedding dress styles, posing in front of cameras and ignoring the beautiful backdrop of the lake in favour of a Gucci advert.
- Pyjama daywear
Hanoi is a city after our own hearts, allowing you to freely walk around in your pyjamas in public. No matter what time of the day, one must never feel ashamed to strut the streets in their silk jammies. Now we aren’t entirelysure if some (mainly older women) are just rocking the matching top and bottoms combo, but either way, they look a whole lot like PJ’s. The fashion sense in Hanoi isn’t much to aspire to and appears to have been left a decade behind the UK (queue tops with lots of cringey slogans including: ‘No boyfriend? No Problem’ etc.)
- Napping on mopeds
As much as we love our chunky old moped and are grateful for how much freedom it has given us, we never viewed it as a place to take a quick 20-minute snooze. But somehow Hanoians (mainly moped taxi drivers awaiting their next customer) manage to recline on their bikes, perfectly balanced on the narrow saddle with their legs dangling over the handlebars. They look completely content and more comfortable than we do sleeping on our own springy mattress, their eyes closed and arms casually placed behind their heads. It’s a miracle they don’t topple over when they eventually nod off.
- Fruit and chili salt
It’s a very popular snack in Hanoi, to have fruit sprinkled with chili salt. Rather than embracing the sweet and juicy flavours of mango, melon or papaya, they opt to draw out the tangy bitterness of fruits. The fruit in Hanoi isn’t as juicy as you’d imagine for a start, their mangos for example, tasting slightly under-ripe, but apparently this is the preference in Hanoi. They must have grown accustomed to the taste, as fruit is harder to grow in the colder climates of the North and therefore not as succulent. Street vendors often sell chopped mango dusted with the chili salt (found all over the city, sold in little pots), wrapped in a bag and then shaken well to ensure a full coating. We have tried the snack before and enjoyed the sensation but it’ll never rival strawberries and cream.
- Tiny toddler chairs
In every café or street food place we chose to dine at, we will without fail be forced to squat on tiny plastic kiddie stools. We’re unsure of the logic behind this; perhaps the aim is to achieve thighs of steel (they love squatting too), good flexibility and perfect posture (as there’s nothing to lean back on).
- Making a selfie your screensaver
No shame in that. One of our teaching assistants went as far as purchasing and designing an iPhone case with her face on it.